Preparing for university: a practical guide
1. The golden rules
– Self-discipline. It is very difficult to write a short paragraph on the importance of self-discipline – it would take a couple of blog posts to properly talk it through! In essence, university represents a shift in who establishes rules and guidelines for your life. Gradually, it will have to be you, and it will be up to you to follow your own rules. All the good skills that we try to cultivate (time management, confidence, early rising, good nutrition, physical activity) come down to this.
It is gradual and difficult ,but so worth it! There are many small things you can do, even now. Whenever you have a good idea, or want to do something that’s good, notice the voice in your head saying “nah, I can do it later”. Resilience is when you strongly respond: “yes, I will do it now”. And you go on and do it. Practice that, and notice the good feeling that comes with the completion of a certain task after you fought laziness and procrastination. The hard bit is always responding to the first “nah” impulse. Practice fighting that impulse every time it comes from now on, and you will build a strong foundation for self-discipline.
– Don’t compare yourself to others. Very simple: don’t ask people what grades they got unless completely necessary; don’t go around telling people your grade unless completely necessary; don’t feel better about your higher mark if someone got a lower mark; don’t feel worse about your lower mark if someone got a higher mark. Comparing yourself to other people’s performance brings unnecessary stress and pressure. I realise that sometimes it is unavoidable, but when you can, run away from comparison! For me, this was a true lifesaver. We all work so differently – comparing is just unhealthy most of the times.
– Balance. Work hard and take regular breaks; spend time in the library and play games with your friends; go to sports sessions and rest a bit. Balance is essential for our health, and in a very hectic and sometimes overwhelming environment, making it a priority will make a real difference in how you live your experience.
2. Various tips
– In your first few weeks, carry your student ID with you or learn your ID number by heart. There are many occasions in which you will have to write it down, so remembering it will make it much easier!
– Check your crockery. Make sure the pots, pans and coffee machines (rip) you bring with you are induction-friendly. Not all accommodation halls have induction hobs, but it is worth checking whether they do once you get your accommodation offer. I only realised once I arrived at Cryfield that I had to buy new crockery and deal with instant coffee for a whole year.
– Make sure you are aware of the many academic possibilities you have! Always check myAdvantage, where you will be able to register to talks, career-related events, and very useful workshops (for example: speed reading, academic writing, critical thinking, confidence in the classroom, and many others!). Part-time jobs, spring/summer internships and post-graduate employment are also advertised. Don’t get too overwhelmed with that, but regularly keep an eye on the opportunities!
– It is never too late to join clubs and societies! In my first year, I gave up on a sports club I really wanted to join because I did not attend the first few sessions in October. I should have joined nonetheless – people will help you catch up and they will not be less welcoming just because it’s later on in the year. The same goes out to second and third year: if you want to try something new, you can do it at any point!
– Be aware of the existence of IATL modules. The Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning offers a series of termly modules that explore certain topics in interdisciplinary, fascinating and cooperative ways. Most courses will have space for you to take modules outside of your home department, so this is an excellent option. Have a look at what is on offer here: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/iatl/study/ugmodules/. You must be in your second year or above to register. I only discovered these at the very beginning of my final year and it was already too late. However, had I known it before, I would had definitely chosen to take at least one of them! The topics seem incredibly interesting and all my friends who took one of the modules were really satisfied.
– Go to ALDI. Very cheap and very good – I managed to make £15 weekly shopping a habit – and still eating as much as I did before. It’s a further couple of minutes away from campus than other shops, but it’s really worth it if you’re on a tight budget!
– Talk to academics – they are always more approachable than what you expect. I used to be very intimidated and even avoid talking to my personal tutor at first because I was scared they would be in some way scarily authoritative. It is never going to be as you expect: they are all approachable, friendly, helpful, extremely competent and great at deejaying.
– Create a routine. With fewer contact hours, and no one to tell you how to manage your time, it will be easy to fall into the trap of laziness and procrastination. Connected to self-discipline, stick to a routine that makes you feel healthy to avoid being too overwhelmed.
I think it is more than enough for today! I hope this was helpful and I will talk to you in a couple of days for a goodbye post/graduation recap (graduating, drum roll, tomorrow!).